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Ventura County Perspective

Setting a Goal of Safe Homes, Safe Schools and Functioning Families

We need to reach down and carry those who want to be carried--and those who must be. We must hear what they are calling out for and work actively to achieve it.

November 12, 2000|CHRIS LANDON

Every day, I have the rare and thrilling privilege of working for children and helping their parents. As director of pediatrics at Ventura County Medical Center, it would be easy for me to slip into a world of administration, but then my work would lose its purpose.

I travel throughout the county's Health Care Agency ambulatory health care system and I see children with cerebral palsy beautifully dressed and cared for, children with chocolate stains on their new school dresses. I hear stories of children who can't find their shoes to get ready for school, receive pictures from children of themselves and their families, and share in their trials and successes.

I help parents keep children safe, based on my 30 years of handling every kind of accident a child conceivably could have and by offering nutrition education to counter the gentle hypnosis of TV. I provide this information because the children cannot. In Ventura County, we have one of the highest rates of overweight children in California and, with it, diabetes in epidemic proportions.

Someone must speak for the children.

Nourish me, they are saying, with love and time and reading. Turn off the TV. Parents, hear your children's prayer. Walk places with your children. Spend time with them.

We must speak for the children.

I have the privilege of spending time working with others to increase access to health care for children who live in places the rest of us would prefer not to be caught in, children whose pictures are on nobody's dresser, whose nightmares come in the day and in the night, who have no rooms to clean up--children whose monsters are real.

We as a community must help the parents whose exposure to drugs or alcohol or their inability to control all that has gone wrong with their world causes them to strike out against those who cannot run away.

We must speak for these children. We must band together in our communities and not be afraid to seek help for these parents.

I can think of a thousand health heroes who leave our clinic proudly wearing "I Got Immunized" Band-Aids, and another hundred whose parents must give them medication and treatments even as those parents hold down jobs, try to have relationships, and cope with brothers and sisters vying for attention.

I can think of another set of health heroes: U. S. Marines and Lions Club members and others in our community who understand this struggle and help with our Christmas party each year. They helped us build a camp in Ojai so parents and their children can have a little time together. They donated a boat so a little girl who must use a ventilator and a wheelchair could go and catch some real fish--like the ones she had been "catching" on her computer.

This category of community health heroes includes an organization that brings computers to the homes of ill children, in memory of one boy who died too young. A young boy with a brain tumor had been to Legoland but his parents couldn't afford Legos; thanks to this caring community, he received the biggest set in the catalog.

Local high school students are learning about themselves by working at health fairs. When a former gang member is ready to take off a tattoo so his child won't imitate him, we find a way to do it. These and many other random acts of kindness are performed by those who listen to and do for the children.

Our society is now in a relatively wealthy time. We must be prepared to invest in an infrastructure that will last when the wealth has receded.

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As we learn how to speak for the children, our lives become a better balance of work and play, of matters of family and the spirit.

We need to reach down and carry those who want to be carried--and those who must be. We must hear what they are calling out for and work actively to achieve it.

I see so many children unprepared for school, unprepared to learn, unprepared to succeed, undone by emotional violence in the home and violence on TV. Children must be prepared to thrive and strive in school.

Children don't vote and we must speak politically for them. We must help children's advocates to succeed through reassurances, love and resources to accomplish safe homes, safe schools and functioning families.

We must be prepared to take the hands of our own children--and the hands of others eagerly looking for any hand kind enough to hold theirs.

Dr. Chris Landon is director of pediatrics at Ventura County Medical Center and executive director of the Landon Pediatric Foundation.

To learn how you can participate in camps, hospital-related activities, Neighborhoods for Learning and other related activities throughout Ventura County, write to the foundation, 3400 Loma Vista Road, Suite 1, Ventura 93003.

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